Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Gold

This candy is super simple to make and absolutely addictive to eat. Originally introduced to me as a Christmas treat with red and green M&Ms, a slight switch of color has instantly transformed it into an All Hallows Eve classic. Dubbed "Halloween Gold" by one of my neighbors, it's as easy as spooning a dollop of melted chocolate onto a bite-sized pretzel and dropping an M&M on top. Once the chocolate has cooled, it's ready to be packed up and handed out to the special little goblins and ghouls in your life. There's nothing better than free gold, so share the wealth!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Finding Brussels....

What a long, strange, culinary trip it's been. Two years ago, I absolutely hated tomatoes. Now, they are a staple of my diet and each year my garden is packed with several varieties. Today marks another unexpected milestone as I officially apologize to the brussel sprout. I have always labeled them as foul little creatures that I would never enjoy. Well, guess who's eating their words... yep, it's me. Come to find out, they are actually quite tasty and definitely deserve a second chance if you have previously written them off of your menu. My favorite recipe, so far, is a quick saute with maple syrup, olive oil, and red pepper flakes served over sweet potato mash and finished with crispy fried onions. This combo creates a perfect balance between sweet and salty with just a hint of heat. I can't imagine what's around the next culinary corner, I can only assume it is more humble pie. That's right... I'm lookin' at you, red beets.

Sweet Potato Mash (serves 2)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 C almond milk

Boil sweet potato until fork tender. Drain potatoes. Using hand blender, whip potatoes with almond milk until smooth... adjust milk quantity to achieve desired consistency.

Brussel Sprouts (serves 2)
2 dozen brussel sprouts, washed and sliced in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 tsp salt

Toss sprouts in a bowl with 1 Tbsp of oil, 2 Tbsp maple syrup, and 2 Tbsp o.j. to coat. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in nonstick skillet on medium. Toss sprouts into warm skillet with salt and red pepper flake and cover for 5 to 6 minutes until the brussel sprouts have a crispy golden color, stirring once or twice.

Crispy Fried Onions (serves 2)
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3/4 C flour
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
pinch salt

Mix flour with 1 tsp each of salt and pepper and toss in onions to coat. Heat 2 Tbsp canola oil in stainless steel skillet over medium high heat. Drop in coated onions and let brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Pulled" Squash and Apple Slaw

Today's recipe was lovingly created for a dear friend and recent convert to the vegetarian lifestyle. In casual conversation, she mentioned that the thing she misses most about eating meat is barbecue sauce. Sure, she could easily slather it on vegetables or pour it over pasta but I wanted to give her something she could really sink her teeth into, something composed with layers of flavor. The first thing that came to mind was a barbecue sandwich (a nostalgic nod to a particular late night in Seaside when we rode our bikes to get pulled pork and cheese grits). I used roasted spaghetti squash as the vehicle for the sauce and an apple coleslaw to dress the sandwich. Toasted slider buns housed the tangy mixture and added an extra level of crunch. The apple slaw was vinegar based and packed full of flavor from the addition of green onions, red pepper flakes, and dijon mustard. Sweet and crunchy, and wonderfully sloppy, this sandwich did not disappoint. Now, can someone get me some cheese grits?.....

"Pulled" Squash:
1 spaghetti squash
1/2 C water
bbq sauce

Slice squash in half, lengthwise, and place in a shallow baking pan filled with 1/2 C water. Cover with foil and place in 425 degree oven for 35 minutes or until soft. Using a fork, scrape the inside of the squash into a bowl and coat with bbq sauce.

*Apple Slaw:
1 head of green cabbage
1 TBSP salt
3 tart apples
3 scallions
1/2 C cider vinegar
4 TBSP olive oil
1/2 C raw sugar
1 TBSP dijon mustard
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Remove core from cabbage. Shred cabbage into a colander and sprinkle with salt, let sit for 1 hour. Rinse and dry cabbage. Slice apples and scallions and toss together in a bowl with cabbage. In a sauce pan, combine vinegar, oil, mustard, pepper flakes, and sugar and whisk until incorporated. Pour warm liquid over cabbage mixture. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

*original slaw recipe found here, tweaked to use olive oil and less of it, as well as more red pepper flake, more scallion, and more apple.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fruit of My Labor

While today's lunch was a delightful one, it did involve deseeding individual grapes and was, therefore, rather tedious in it's preparation. I'll be honest - it tried my patience at first, but I had a freshly charged ipod, some time on my hands, and a big bowl of Concords and Niagaras. Armed with a super sharp paring knife, I forged ahead. It became quite therapeutic, actually, focusing on one tiny task with such diligence. After each grape was carefully sliced, I coaxed the seeds out of the fruit using the tip of the knife... a tricky maneuver, indeed, but the payoff was well worth the effort. I roasted the grapes with leeks, olive oil, and salt and served them on a bed of quinoa, topped with crumbles of goat cheese. Obviously, it would have been easier to use seedless grapes, but the result would have lacked the deep, rich flavor. In this case, the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Green Tomato Soup

Friday morning I woke up to find that the previous night's storm had not only blown off a few shingles, it had also trashed the remaining plants in my garden. It was officially time to prepare the beds for a long winter's nap. I pulled the wind blown stakes out of the ground and sorted them for storage. I trimmed the last of the oregano, thinned out the rainbow chard, and loaded the composter full of fresh garden shrapnel. Snuggled between a thick patch of arugula and a meandering cucumber vine, I found several rogue tomato plants, hiding their unripened fruit. Recipe research ensued. I found everything from fried green tomatoes to green tomato cake, but one idea kept coming to mind - green tomato soup. I read a few recipes to gather the basics and then I hit the kitchen. The result was a deliciously sweet and spicy soup topped with crunchy parmesan croutons (a subtle nod to the grilled cheese, if you will). It was the perfect remedy for my fall garden blues. Had it not been for the damaging storm, I would have missed these little green beauties and subsequently missed out on green tomato goodness. I guess everything does happen for a reason...

Green Tomato Soup
4 C chopped green tomatoes
3 fuji apples, peeled and chopped
1 small yellow onion
1 jalapeno - DESEEDED
1 yellow bell pepper
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/4 tsp cumin
almond milk

Warm olive oil in a saucepan and add garlic and onion. Saute on medium heat until onions are soft, taking care not to burn garlic. Add tomatoes, apples, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and red pepper flake, adjust to taste. Cover with half water, half almond milk and simmer until apples are soft. Puree mixture and run through a sieve to remove large pieces. Take the pieces left in the sieve and return them to the food processor. Pulse again until smooth. Add half of that mixture back into the strained soup. Simmer. Using a slurry of almond milk and whole wheat flour, thicken the soup to desired consistency. Top with croutons and parmesan cheese...broil to melt cheese.